Here we are again, the start of another year. “New Year, New You,” “Make 2018 the best year yet,” “2018 is the year it finally happens,” blah, blah, blah. It does not take much looking around to see these mantras posted all over social media, TV, and radio ads. Year after year, hearing the same worn out adages makes it like living in the Peanuts cartoons. We are like Charlie Brown, attempting to kick the football, and at the very last minute Lucy, pulls the ball away and we go flying through the air. After totally missing the ball, we land square on our backs. No matter how many “pinky promises” and “cross my hearts” Lucy does, Charlie Brown never learns his lesson and he gets the same results every time- nothing changes. Sound harsh? Let me explain.
Chiropractic is not my only gig. Along with my chiropractic office, I am also in the fitness business. I have been in the martial arts world almost my entire life and now I own and manage three boutique fitness kickboxing studios. Between patients wanting to feel better and get healthier and kickboxers wanting to get skinnier and more ripped, I have seen the full gamut of New Year’s resolutions. You know what I have found with New Year’s resolutions? They don’t work. Kickboxers come in on January 2nd to make it their best year yet and within a week, the instructors are calling them to help them get back to class. Patients do the same thing with missing appointments or falling off the wagon during a detox or cleanse, only a few days after proclaiming their new convictions towards a healthy lifestyle. Forbes.com says that over 40% of Americans will make some kind of New Year’s resolution with only 8% of these people actually achieving them. How can we, as part of their health care team, help our patients reach their healthier lifestyle goals?
1. Let’s Get Real and Raw with Our Goals
There is a fine line between being able to dig deep about what somebody wants and coming off as a jerk. In my office, when a new patient comes in, of course I do a case history. In the case history, I like to ask why somebody wants what they are looking for. At first, it is usually straightforward, “to get out of pain,” “to feel better,” or “to be able to turn my head from side to side,” etc. After a patient has been with me for a while, I start to ask more difficult questions.
A. What do you really want?
B. How long have you wanted to do that?
Ex: How long have you wanted to lose those extra 20 pounds?
Did you write this goal down last year?
C. How will your life be different if you lose 20lbs, get your diabetes under control, switch to an anti-inflammatory diet, etc.? These simple questions can really be delved into. I make them give me three reasons why they want that particular goal.
2. Being Ruthless about what Matters
The big thing here is, does the patient really need to work on losing 20 pounds, or do they need consistency in going to the gym three times a week? Or do they need follow through, to make sure that even when they have a bad day, the patient doesn’t go home and smash a bunch of food and totally ruin a good day.
Here are a couple ideas I like to throw out at patients when they want to make a health or fitness lifestyle change:
A. Commitment: Are you really ready to make this change?
B. Realistic: Is losing 20 pounds in 20 days realistic, or would it be better to make small changes in a 20 day period to help build better lifestyle and habit changes?
C. Letting people help you: Do you have spousal support? Can someone watch your kids? A healthy lifestyle is not done alone.
D. Follow-through: Would an accountability partner or group be helpful? What about putting a red “X” on the calendar for every day they went to the gym, ate healthy, or got adjusted?
3. Give Yourself Permission to not be Perfect
I don’t know about you, but there are sometimes and even days when having businesses/jobs, houses, spouses, kids, animals, etc. just seem to get in the way of taking care of us.
Imagine this; it has been a rough day, and now a patient has only 30 minutes to complete a workout instead of an hour. Many people wouldn’t still go to the gym. Here is where commitment, consistency, and follow-thru come into play. A 30 minute workout is better than no workout at all. One crappy meal (going out to dinner with drinks) is better than over-doing every meal. Most of the time, “bad days” can be salvaged with good habits thrown in. It’s never a waste to try and eat healthy and workout even if it’s not perfect. I had one patient this morning who was very stressed out. We changed the date and time of his appointment. Not a big deal right? He is coming back for treatment and we can still keep him on his once a month wellness visit. It is the little habits that over time define who we are. As their doctors, we can help influence our patients into choosing healthier habits at every appointment they come to. We do not need to be zealots with how we think patients should live their lives. By us showing them how to live through how we live- with healthy eating, working out, stress management, getting our own adjustments, etc.- we can be the positive force. Using our positive force in their lives, we can slowly start to shift New Year’s resolutions into real, meaningful goals. Cheers to 2018!
Kassandra Schultz DC.